Biosafety

Biosafety

[bahy-oh-seyf-tee]
Biosafety: prevention of large-scale loss of biological integrity, focusing both on ecology and human health.

Biosafety is related to several fields

  • in ecology (referring to imported life forms from beyond ecoregion borders),
  • in agriculture (reducing the risk of alien viral or transgenic genes, or prions such as BSE/"MadCow", reducing the risk of food bacterial contamination)
  • in medicine (referring to organs or tissues from biological origin, or genetic therapy products, virus; levels of lab containment protocols measured as 1, 2, 3, 4 in rising order of danger),
  • in chemistry (i.e., nitrates in water, PCB levels affecting fertility) and
  • in exobiology (i.e., NASA's policy for containing alien microbes that may exist on space samples - sometimes called "biosafety level 5").

The international Biosafety Protocol deals primarily with the agricultural definition but many advocacy groups seek to expand it to include post-genetic threats: new molecules, artificial life forms, and even robots which may compete directly in the natural food chain.

Biosafety in agriculture, chemistry, medicine, exobiology and beyond will likely require application of the precautionary principle, and a new definition focused on the biological nature of the threatened organism rather than the nature of the threat.

When biological warfare or new, currently hypothetical, threats (i.e., robots, new artificial bacteria) are considered, biosafety precautions are generally not sufficient. The new field of biosecurity addresses these complex threats.

Biosafety level refers to the stringency of precautions deemed necessary by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for laboratory work with infectious materials.

See also

References

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